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If you're a writer of a TV drama series with recurring characters, you have a problem: You need a new story every week, and they cannot all be just about your regular cast. So most TV series formats, particularly for drama, involve some way of bringing a new set of guest stars into your leads' lives for every episode. There are just two ways to do this: Either your leads work as cops, lawyers, doctors, or some other profession that naturally brings lots of other people to them for short periods of time; or else your leads do something that has them travelling around a lot, meeting new people and situations wherever they go.
Maybe they're Drifters Walking the Earth. Maybe they are being chased by the law. Maybe they are just trying to get home. Whatever the reason, our main characters go to a new place each week that results in an adventure that they have to solve in forty-two minutes—sixty minutes minus the commercials. Often the heroes will be Mistaken for Spies when they get there. Count on a local or two to help.
The location version of Monster of the Week. Compare to City of Adventure and Wacky Wayside Tribe. In Science Fiction shows, instead of going from town to town, the protagonists tend to go from world to world (thus travelling to "Adventure Planets"). Combined with Alternate Universe to make "Adventure Universes" in Sliders. Combine it with Time Travel and you get Quantum Leap. Combine with both space travel and time travel (plus the occasional alternate universe), and you get Doctor Who.
A subset would be the Town with a Dark Secret. Best examples are from movies like Bad Day At Black Rock, High Plains Drifter, or Hang 'Em High. The town is complicit in some evil criminal past and the arrival of the stranger disrupts their efforts to keep the lid on.
Anime and Manga
- One Piece has several, except they're adventure islands, and they tend to spend an entire Arc there.
- Kino's Journey has the main character visit a new Adventure Town in most episodes, occasionally visiting several new ones in a single episode. Each Adventure Town tends to have its own physical laws, technological level, and eccentric characteristics. Frequently subverted by Kino's aloofness preventing her from actually taking part in an adventure.
- The 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime utilized this in a way that was very unique for the time, combining it with Chekhov's Armory. The early part of the first season was basically yet another anime where the heroes visited a town every week looking for a MacGuffin and just happened to be there at the right time to set right that which was wrong. However, after a few episode of this, a much larger plot materialized. The clincher is that, with the exception of the Psiren incident, practically everything that happened during this period of visiting adventure towns came back to affect Ed and Al at some point, highlighting one of the show's theme of equivalent exchange: you give something up (in this case, time they could've been using to search for the Philosopher's Stone), you gain something equal (aid in their quest later on). This left such an impression on many that even Hiromu Arakawa, the writer of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga upon which the anime is loosely based, actually took inspiration from this specific story structure during the later chapters of her series.
- The Pokémon anime has a lot of these in practically every episode between Gym battles. Even the Gym towns themselves qualify as this, as they spend a few episodes in each one doing various things.
- The original Dragon Ball started out this way as part of the quest to collect the Dragon Balls, and GT as well.
- Trigun quite blatantly does this, especially the first season.
- Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle provides examples of Adventure Universes, although major plot key to the Myth Arc was hidden in one of them.
- The Flying House and Super Book titles have kids visiting places in Biblical times.
- In Ergo Proxy they're really more like Mindfuck Towns.
- The Marvel Universe comic book Exiles is an Adventure Universe series, and Excalibur had an Adventure Universe Story Arc.
- Every film in the Blind Swordsman series has Zatoichi wandering into a new one of these.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events takes this approach. Some of the "towns" are individual foster parents for the orphans. As the books progress, they become more like actual towns including a lumber mill, a boarding school, and even an actual village called the Village of Fowl Devotees, an unusual community where arbitrary laws and birdwatching are Serious Business.
- The Odyssey is perhaps one of the oldest examples of this trope, forcing Odysseus to travel to several islands, travel through dangerous waters, and even go to the land of the dead before coming back home.
- In Dogs in the Vineyard, the PCs are God's Watchdogs in an Expy of 19th century Mormon territory, traveling between towns ("branches") and fixing thorny problems before they fester into full-blown demon-enabling heresy.
- Cheyenne may be the first live TV example (it started in 1955). Cheyenne Bodie, the only recurring character after the first three episodes (during which he had a sidekick), aimlessly wanders the West, taking on odd jobs and having adventures.
- Have Gun Will Travel, and to a lesser degree Wagon Train and Rawhide are also early Western examples.
- Used in most of Star Trek except Deep Space 9. In fact, Gene Roddenberry described Star Trek as "it's like Wagon Train to the stars" in his early pitches.
- The Stargate franchise fits this trope also.
- Doctor Who, featuring a time machine that can go anywhere in time and space, features Adventure Times that are often also Adventure Planets and at least three times an Adventure Universe. Adventure Bases, Adventure Starships and Adventure Space Stations are also par for the course.
- Firefly often visited Adventure Planets and Adventure Moons as the crew of Serenity went on jobs.
- Another good example is Farscape.
- Classic Stern Chase versions include The Fugitive, The Incredible Hulk, and Nowhere Man.
- Route 66, Then Came Bronson, Kung Fu, Knight Rider, The X-Files, and Supernatural did this every week.
- The Littlest Hobo is a classic Canadian series that exemplifies the Adventure Town theme, what with wandering hero strolling into a new town every week to set right whatever domestic issues they may be facing, only to head off into the sunset by the end of the episode. Only the hero in question is a dog. Most Canadians and quite a few Australians older than twenty-five can sing its "Maybe Tomorrow" theme from memory to this day. Those of us even older remember the original theme -- "Road Without End".
- Xena visits adventure villages weekly.
- In My World My Way, every town is an Adventure Town...'even the little hamlet out in the oasis.
- Earthbound. One city is filled with delinquent children, another has a cultist group just around the corner, another is in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse...
- The Spore expansion pack Galactic Adventures turns whole planets into this. Your captain can go down onto them and do quests, Star Trek style.
- Re Boot has this happen while Matrix and Andraia are lost on the Net, though most of the towns are visited offscreen. They mention visiting over dozens of systems but we only see three of them before they find one with ports to the Net and can finally reach the Web.
- Here Comes the Grump sends the protagonists to a new town every episode in their quest to find the Cave of Whispering Orchids and escape from the villainous Grump.
- ThunderCats (2011) has its titular group of Catfolk Hitchhiker Heroes stumble on to these while hunting for various magical Ancient Artifacts on a Multicultural Alien Planet, in hopes of defeating Big Bad Mumm-Ra.